Last summer, I noticed a spate of news stories about the rise of home gardening. In July, ’08, Newsweek and NPR both reported that concerns about food safety, as well as an increasing desire to eat locally and healthily, was turning a lot of folks into Green Thumbs. People like Fred Davis and Yvette Roman Davis, bloggers at Beyond the Lawn, reported reclaiming their L.A. front lawn for a thriving Victory Garden.
I thought this was supremely cool, as it seemed to usher in an era of getting away from water-guzzling, appearance-oriented lawns and into practical, food-producing gardens. These prove beautiful, too, of course. It’s just a shift in perspective and priorities that allows us to bring the backyard up to the front. (Some neighborhoods have even loosened their restrictions on such sustainable practices as front-yard growing and line-drying of laundry.)
As a bonus, front yard gardeners get to know — and sometimes feed — their neighbors. Community happens when we move yard and porch living out of the private and into the public. This summer, I’ve already heard about two monthly plant exchanges and a weekly vegetable harvest exchange in my neighborhood, as well as new farmers’ markets in my larger community.
Of course, further afield, the Obama White House broke ground for its organic vegetable garden (involving local schoolchildren in the process), the first White House vegetable garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden in the 1940s.
I’m very moved by this picture of First Lady Michelle Obama and children in the garden, that appears in the White House blog. Food from the garden is feeding the White House and Washington, D.C.’s Miriam’s Kitchen, which feeds the homeless.
Last week’s San Francisco Chronicle had another story about the rise in home gardening. Chris Romas, the president of W. Atlee Burpee, the world’s largest seed company, said he hasn’t seen this kind of interest in home growing in 30 years. Lots of currents are influencing people to turn or return to gardening — It’s a cost-effective way to supply one’s food, you have complete control over the way your food is grown, you can get in touch with the land, you can enjoy companionship or solitude, and it’s very satisfying to grow and make your own food.
I have fond memories of vegetable gardening with my dad, growing up. We had wonderful raised beds and great Southern California sun. But you don’t have to have either to enjoy growing food. I’ve grown tomatoes on a Manhattan balcony and pumpkin, corn, peppers and more on my fog-shrouded deck in Mill Valley. If you’ve been following my Deck Garden tales, you know the advice to use your vertical space, with trellises and vines. I also urge beginning gardeners to start small, follow seed-pack directions, weed out seedlings so that the hardiest new plantings will have room to grow, and harvest your crops, so you can enjoy them and also give new growth some room to come in.
I’m going to take my own advice and have a big home-grown salad for lunch. This is my 2’x 2′ lettuce box today:
This is the box a month ago:
Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman
White House Garden Photo Courtesy of The White House/Joyce N. Boghosian